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Plaintiffs claimed serious spinal injuries from motor vehicle accident. Morales v. Calcano, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 34615 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020)


A common issue when it comes to personal injury cases is whether the injury suffered was a “serious injury.” In Morales v. Calcano, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 34615 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020), a motor vehicle accident case, the defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs did not suffer a “serious injury” as defined by New York Insurance Law § 5102(d).

Background Facts
On April 1, 2016, plaintiffs were involved in a motor vehicle accident. The accident led to injuries for both plaintiffs, who then commenced a personal injury action to recover damages. The defendants, in turn, filed motions for summary judgment, asserting that neither plaintiff sustained a “serious injury” under the law.

The plaintiffs alleged various injuries, including spinal injuries and a ruptured breast implant for plaintiff Garcia. They claimed these injuries significantly impacted their daily lives and were caused by the accident. The defense relied on medical examinations and reports to argue that the injuries were either not serious or not caused by the accident.

Whether the plaintiffs sustained “serious injuries” as defined by New York Insurance Law § 5102(d), which would allow them to pursue damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, the case examined whether the defendants were liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs.

The court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, allowing the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed. The court found that there were triable issues of fact regarding the severity and causation of the plaintiffs’ injuries that needed to be resolved at trial.

The defendants sought summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs did not meet the “serious injury” threshold. To support their motion, they submitted medical reports from orthopedic surgeons and a biomechanical engineer. These reports concluded that the plaintiffs’ injuries were not significant, permanent, or causally related to the accident.

For plaintiff Morales, Dr. Jeffrey M. Spivak’s report stated that her injuries were minor strains, possibly related to the accident, but her range of motion was normal. However, Dr. Spivak did not provide details on how the range of motion was measured, leading the court to question the reliability of his findings. Similarly, Dr. Leon Sultan examined plaintiff Garcia and found no trauma or causal relationship between the accident and her injuries, including the ruptured breast implant.

Despite these reports, the court noted that the examinations took place well after the 180-day period following the accident. The doctors failed to address whether the plaintiffs were prevented from performing their usual activities during that critical period, as claimed in their bills of particulars. This omission was significant, as it left unresolved questions about the impact of the injuries immediately following the accident.

In opposition to the motion, the plaintiffs provided medical evidence showing that they had significant range-of-motion limitations and ongoing pain shortly after the accident. Dr. Alexandre B. De Moura, an orthopedic surgeon, affirmed that both plaintiffs had permanent and progressive spinal injuries causally related to the accident. His reports provided a detailed and objective analysis of the plaintiffs’ conditions, supporting their claims of serious injury.

Dr. De Moura also emphasized that there is no minimum amount of force required to cause a spinal injury, countering the defendants’ argument that the accident could not have caused such injuries. His findings raised genuine issues of fact that needed to be resolved at trial.

The defendants argued that the plaintiffs had gaps in their treatment, which undermined their claims of serious injury. However, the court disregarded this argument as it was raised for the first time in reply, which is procedurally improper.

Defendants John A. Santana and Lorinda Enterprises also sought summary judgment on the issue of liability, claiming their bus was struck in the rear by a vehicle operated by co-defendants. The court granted this part of the motion, finding that the plaintiffs and co-defendants failed to provide a non-negligent explanation for the rear-end collision. Therefore, the court held Santana and Lorinda Enterprises were not liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal injury in a motor vehicle accident, immediately seek the assistance of an experienced New York spinal injury lawyer. These cases involve complex medical and legal issues that require the expertise of a knowledgeable attorney. Whether you are dealing with insurance companies or taking your case to court, having a dedicated lawyer on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates today to discuss your case and take the first step toward securing the justice and compensation you need. Protecting your rights and securing your future starts with having a knowledgeable advocate on your side.

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